By Humphrey Carter

BRITISH travel experts and the Director of the Spanish Tourist Office in London, Ignacio Vasallo, said earlier this year that the Balearics will be the most popular holiday destination in Spain this year and the latest tourism spending figures provide just that.

According to the latest foreign tourism spending data collated on behalf of the Ministry for Tourism, Commerce and Industry for the first four months of the year, reveal that, while tourism on mainland Spain fell by seven percent, here in the Balearics, the amount of money spent by tourists actually rose by 12 percent.

And, what is more significant is that the Balearic's main domestic competitors like the Canary Islands, Andalucia, Valencia and Cataluña, all posted sharp downturns in spending of between 2.4 percent and nearly 25 percent - the largest downturn being experienced in Valencia.

Looking at the Spanish market as a whole, British tourists have been the biggest spenders during the first four months of the year.
The 2'504 million euros spent by British holiday makers accounts for a near 20 percent share of overall foreign expenditure although, the total figure is nearly 16 percent less than during the corresponding period last year.

German holidaymakers spent 2'398 million euros, 2.1 percent more than last year while the 1'1000 million euros spent by Nordic and French holidaysmakers represented a 6.9 percent and 2.9 percent reduction respectively.

The Italians are now the fourth biggest spenders, but again the 622 million euros spent is ten percent lower than during the first four months of last year.

The figures also suggest that Easter was not as poor as the domestic tourist industry has claimed.
With the holidays falling later this year in April, the British again proved the biggest spenders, spending 822 million euros.

This week, Balearic tourism chiefs held a summit in London with the directors of tour operator TUI to discuss the latest developments in the holiday markets and the latest holiday sales figures.

Over the past two weeks, the UK industry has reported a significant increase in interest in Balearic holidays, especially to Ibiza and Majorca with the latter having witnessed a nine percent increase in sales.

This rise in interest in Balearic holidays corresponds to the steady gain in strength of the Pound against the Euro (as the top graphic indicates) and, with few holidays available in Turkey and Egypt, Britons are opting for the traditional and popular euro zone destinations like the Balearics.

The fact that Turkey, for example, has increased its prices by over 30 percent this year is also helping to make the Balearics more economically attractive to late bookers who are being offered very good holiday offers on Balearic packages.